By George Samuel, Abuja
Former gubernatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance( APGA) and former Managing Director of defunct Diamond Bank, Dr Alex Otti, OFR, in this interview with ‘The Nigeria Daily’ revealed his reasons for dumping his former political party, APGA. According to Otti, the executive Governor of Anambra State who doubles as the national leader of APGA refused to consider the complaints of party stakeholders against the national Chairman, Chief Victor Oye and returned him for a second term . The former Bank chief also discussed his new political party among other issues. Excerpts
Your article on the mismanagement of monies saved by former Governor of Anambra state, Mr Peter Obi by his successor Gov. Willie Obiano was controversial, considering you belong to the same polital party with him . Is there any rift with the governor ?
First of all, the article in question did not mention Governor Willie Obiano and I am not in a position to discuss the management of Anambra funds by Obiano. The article was on Leadership and the six ‘Cs’ of leadership. I used the example of Peter Obi to celebrate Prudence as against Profligacy.
As a former CEO of Diamond bank I knew about the money Peter Obi invested in Nigerian banks for Anambra State. The money were in Tier 2 capital of three banks: Access Bank- 50 million dollars, Diamond bank- 50 million dollars and Fidelity Bank- 55 million dollars. I concentrated on dollars only to drive home my point. I chose to ignore the Naira savings for the purpose of the write up.
The exchange rate at the time of these investments in 2014 was about N160 per dollar. In 2019 when the investments would have matured, because they were Tier 2 capital of these banks exchange rate had moved to about N360. If you add the Naira equivalent to the interest rate of about 9%, the net balance would be about N95B.
So, what was I trying to say? My point was that if you are able to cut your coat according to your cloth, you will be able to save. There is no need pretending that we are rich when we are poor. I gave an example with Peter Obi, he could have been flying private jets, but you will see him all the time in the economy cabin of planes both local and international and he would travel alone, I was not saying that everybody should do that. I was just saying that you need to look at the resources available to you, and that applies to the federal and local governments too not only the state governments.
Today we spend over 70% of our budget on recurrent expenditure so we have less than 30% for capital expenditure and I dare say that that is why we have infrastructural decay everywhere. We can’t develop with that kind of arrangement. Today we are owning about N79.3billion dollars, we are still going to borrow anywhere between 10 and 15bilion dollars this year to fund the budget, even though it has been reviewed. We are spending close to 60% of our revenue on servicing debt, no economy runs that way.
So, the essence of that article is that we need to hit the reset button and think of our economy again, can we afford funding up to 469 legislators in National Assembly. Can we cut it down, can we even afford 36 states? Why can’t we re-organize ourselves into regions and save on the cost of governance? It is the cost of governance that wouldn’t let us breath and the corona virus has given us the opportunity to look at it again. Look at healthcare, we spend about 6%-7% of our budget on healthcare. World Health Organization requires us to spend a minimum of 15% of our budget on public healthcare. I had written extensively on this.
Today we are all on lockdown, nobody can go anywhere, people are dying daily, and the public healthcare is decrepit , so we just need to change things. That my article was about leadership and unfortunately people have left the issue I was talking about and they are talking about governors, I am not interested in that narrative.
You ran for governor twice under All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA) , What’s your relationship with Governor of Anambra state who is the leader of the party?
I don’t have any issue with Governor Obiano as a person, I only disagreed with him on the way he returned the former chairman of the party, Victor Oye who messed up the last primaries in some states, particularly Imo and Abia. Many people complained about being extorted by the former Chairman promising to hand them tickets which he failed to do. There were a lot of protests against the former Chairman and but the leader of the party insisted on imposing him for a second term. That action led to the factionalisation of the party. Unfortunately, two other people are laying claims to the Chairmanship of the party at the moment. I sincerely believe that if we sat down to organize ourselves, the party wouldn’t be having the problems it has today. But he insisted that he wanted to give Victor Oye a second tenure as the leader of the party, so it’s for members of the party to decide how they want to react to that. I have taken my own decision. There is an election coming up in Anambra soon and I believe that if the party continues to carry on with impunity ignoring many voices that have raised objections against the way things are done, it will be a miracle for the party to hold on to the State. Other than that, Obiano and I have great relationship, we are friends, we were in the banking industry together and I gave my little support to his second term bid.
Your Excellency, you are a political leader in Abia state, you are very popular and people are still looking up to you for this leadership we are talking about. Recently there is this rumour that some of your loyal members from APGA decamped to APC and there is this rumour going around that Alex Otti is now an APC member. Is it true? Are you now an APC member?*
Well, when I’m going to join any party, I’ll be the one to make the announcement. Until that announcement is made, people should not railroad me into any political party. Everybody has the right to join any political party that they wish to join , some of my members that joined APC have the right to. When the time comes for me to make a public announcement about my future politically, I’ll do that. That is where I’ll leave for now.
So, are you trying to say your loyalists decamped without consulting you?
If you understand politics, it is about choice and freewill. People decide what they want to do, you can advise them but at the end of the day, they take their decisions. So, if anybody has joined APC based on their dissatisfaction with the present party, I can’t hold them. So at the appointed time like I said, I’ll make an announcement. But what I know is that I have already indicated my intention to leave APGA, that one is clear. Where I’m going to, I’ll make the announcement at the appointed time.
Are you satisfied with the current leadership in Abia ? You have ran for governor twice and came out unsuccessful . Would you still run for governor in 2023?
As a mark of respect for the governor who had been sick in the last few weeks, I will make no comment on the leadership of the state.
On 2023, it is a whopping 3 years from now. Nobody knows what is going to happen in 2023, I think it is still too early to decide . For now, we are contributing our little quota by giving advise and suggestions in our fortnightly column, “Outside The Box”. We also give pieces of advice both solicited and non-solicited to ensure that our governments work. That is what we are doing. So, when the time comes for decisions to be made, you will be amongst the first to know.